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World’s first tidal-powered hydrogen generated at EMEC in Orkney Islands

BIG HIT partner EMEC (The European Marine Energy Centre) has produced tidal-powered hydrogen from their electrolyser on Eday, in the Orkney Islands. This tidal-powered hydrogen was generated by EMEC on Friday 25th August 2017, and is the first time that hydrogen has been created from tidal energy anywhere in the world.

By harnessing the power of the tide at EMEC’s tidal energy test site at the Fall of Warness, Eday, Orkney, prototype tidal energy converters – Scotrenewables’ SR2000 and Tocardo’s TFS and T2 turbine – fed power into an electrolyser situated next to EMEC’s onshore substation. Supplied by ITM Power, the electrolyser uses the electricity to split water (H2O) into its component parts – hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2). The electrolyser is housed in a standard 20’ by 10’ ISO container with hydrogen generation capacity of up to 220kg/24hours.

Scottish Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish Government is pleased to be supporting this innovative project which will help to partially overcome grid constraints in the Orkney Islands by enabling the storage of excess tidal power generated and using that electricity to produce hydrogen. The project also adds to our growing understanding of the potential role of hydrogen in Scotland’s future energy system – something we have committed to exploring in our draft Energy Strategy.”

EMEC’s investment in hydrogen production capability has been made possible by funding of £3 million from Scottish Government, made available through Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

One of the projects that will be using EMEC’s electrolyser is the Surf’n’Turf project being led by Community Energy Scotland in partnership with Orkney Islands Council, EMEC, Eday Renewable Energy and ITM Power. The Surf ‘n’ Turf project will see the electrolyser producing hydrogen using electricity from EMEC’s test site as well as power from a 900kW Enercon wind turbine owned by the Eday community. The hydrogen will then be transported to Kirkwall, where a fuel cell installed on the pier will convert the hydrogen back into electricity for use as auxiliary power for ferries when tied up overnight. The project is also developing a training programme with a view to green hydrogen eventually being used as a fuel source on the inter-island ferries themselves.

Neil Kermode, Managing Director of EMEC, said: “The electrolyser was set up to pilot the production of hydrogen fuel from tidal energy – and now we’ve done just that. This is a tremendous milestone for us and thanks must go to EMEC’s staff, the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, ITM Power and Bryan J Rendall Electrical for helping make this happen. Whilst the initial driver behind buying an electrolyser was to provide a storage solution to circumvent local grid constraints, the purchase has sparked off other pioneering projects around Orkney looking to use hydrogen in various means. So we’re now looking towards the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney. One of the most promising uses of hydrogen is as a fuel for transport as it emits no carbon when it is consumed and, providing it’s generated by clean renewable energy sources, it becomes a carbon neutral fuel source. Therefore, we could see green hydrogen, over time, replace polluting fuels in our cars, vans and ferries.”

ITM Power, who specialise in the manufacture of integrated hydrogen energy systems, won a competitive tender to supply a system to EMEC back in 2015. The system’s principal component, a 0.5MW ‘polymer electrolyte membrane’ (PEM) electrolyser, comes with integrated compression and up to 500kg of storage. Dr Graham Cooley, CEO, ITM Power commented: “We are delighted to be working with EMEC and to have reached the milestone of first gas production on this ground-breaking project to directly couple an electrolyser to tidal turbines. This is an excellent example of using hydrogen to capture and store excess renewable energy.”

Mark Hull, Community Energy Scotland’s Head of Innovation said: “As Orkney’s communities and businesses pull together to establish the foundations of a local hydrogen network, it’s fantastic to see this achievement. Getting the most out of the islands’ renewable resources is the driving force behind the Surf ‘n’ Turf project of which this electrolyser is a key part. So it’s full speed ahead now to get the rest of the network ready.”

Image of Surf ‘n’ Turf mobile storage unit. Photo Credit Colin Keldie, K4 Graphics. Link: